Spark Admissions Blog

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How Many AP or IB Classes Should I Take to Get into College?

June 28, 2013
Written by Rachel B. Rubin

So how do you know how many AP/IB classes you should take from those that are offered? My answer is that you should take the most AP/IB classes that you feel you can sufficiently handle.  

This aligns with my advice, based on speaking with dozens of Deans of Admissions at selective colleges, that you should take the most rigorous (meanest highest level) courses that are available that you feel you can succeed in.

With that being said, if you are afraid of science courses and haven't commonly excelled in them, taking AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics, simultaneously, is probably not the best choice. You don't want to be miserable and get bad grades. But you should consider taking one of these three classes, and just know that you'll have to spend a good deal of time learning the course material. Conversely, if you love science, can make room for all three in your schedule, and feel that you can succeed them, then go for it!

Another way of determining how many AP courses to take is this. Some guidance counselors say that you should take three, and only three, AP courses at any given time. I respectfully disagree. Rather than thinking about a generic number of AP courses as the rule of thumb, think about your track record. If you've taken AP classes in the past, have you received an A and a 4 (or hopefully, a 5) on the AP exam? If so, take a few more AP courses each semester until you figure out what you can handle. You don't want to get poor grades while feeling stressed and overtired, but you also want to demonstrate to colleges that you can handle the challenge and rigor of college-level courses, and that you can excel in them.

For additional information about selecting courses, see my blog "What classes should I take to get into college?"